Posts Tagged ‘fun’


Okay, let’s be up front about this. It’s not Rock Fiction, for all that Grace’s father is a rocker. In fact, the few times we see Jer, as Grace calls him, he’s not much more than a name on a page, a vague character of a person. Neither is Grace’s mother, the typical model/actress/ambitious snob who can’t put her own control issues aside and see her daughter for who she is.

But if Grace’s parents are vague or stereotypic, Grace herself is the absolute opposite. Sure, it’s probably a huge stereotype that she’s the bohemian child who opposes her mother at almost every value. The biggest surprise about her is when she puts on the Reality Star Wardrobe and remarks how familiar and comfortable it is, even though she knows that the role she had been playing was nothing more than that – a role. This is an insight that transcends these stereotypes. It’s a welcome one.

On the flip side is Marc, Marcus, our buttoned-up, staid businessman type who has probably forgotten how to smile, if he even ever knew. He’s almost the third side of this trinity of who are you – the extravagant showman, the hippie chick devoted to her causes, the buttoned-up dude who’s buttoned down his personality and his life so that people like Grace and her family can’t disrupt the boat.

Enter one dog. One Great Dane, to be specific. Dogs in general aren’t going to work in Marc’s life. But a big Dane that needs room to run and is pretty much Grace’s totem animal?

Now, we all know where this is headed: Grace has to make peace with her family and their reality show life. They need to accept her and actually see that her painting talent goes beyond a hobby. She needs to accept that using the resources offered by their reality show isn’t selling out; it’s smart. Marcus needs to learn how to joke and laugh, how to unbutton not only his suits but himself, as well.

And of course they all do these things. This is a romance, after all, and there’s never any doubt what’s going to happen in it. It’s the getting there that is all the fun, and believe me, this is fun. Over the top fun. Crazy fun. Larger than life, if-this-happened-in-reality-no-one-would-believe-it fun.

Pineapple lamps and fires and activists and birds and dogs and Grace’s odd naïve trust in people despite the reality show and lens of fame she’s grown up in. It all figures in. There are assumptions and people who get too angry with each other to speak and work it out like adults. And there are unravelings of the assumptions and happy endings and love and respect. And big dogs.

I wish more books were this much fun.


Back in Rocktober, Susan Griscom sent me a review copy of her two Beaumont Brothers books, Beautifully Wounded and Beautifully Used. Took me awhile to get through them, and I already reviewed Beautifully Wounded. I think the fact that it’s not Rock Fiction had me dragging my heels about getting Beautifully Used read … and then reviewed. I finished it awhile ago. Like a month or so.

But I take good notes. So let’s get to it:

Beautifully Used is the story of one of the minor characters in Beautifully Wounded, Jackson’s brother Brodie. Brodie’s your classic male slut and although I kept wondering why word never got out in this small town they purportedly live in about what a slut he was, the girls kept coming around. I don’t know. I’ve never been the type to seek out the easy lays, and it’s not like Brodie had the freedom to go chase tail: as a bartender, he’s pretty much locked into a fixed location. That’s why I wonder why word never got out about him.

And then, in the first book, he meets Gabrielle, the best friend of his brother’s girl. For Brodie, it’s lust at first sight, of course. Gabrielle isn’t so sure.

Which is why Lena and Jackson push them repeatedly into close quarters as they wind up essentially being the last-minute go-fers for Lena and Jackson’s wedding. Lena’s so glad to have her friend around, but in her pre-wedding Bridezilla self-obsession doesn’t spend that much time with her friend. Jackson, likewise, is absent. So it’s Gabby and Brodie and yeah, there’s no hope for them. We know they’ll be together.

The conflict comes in a way that’s too similar to the first book, too. Stalkers, confrontations in the woods, almost deaths. Brodie’s habits are less of an issue than this stalker-dude, and Gabby’s horrific past is dealt with way too easily.

While there’s more music in this one — the band goes on the road for a show, in a pretty implausible way (but it’s still fun — I have stress that. It’s fun) — it’s still not Rock Fiction. There’s not enough music, not enough of the right elements that push these people from being people into being stars. They’re just people who make music.

So. Lots of negatives here. And yeah, there are. But like the first book, this is a fun, easy read. It’s perfect for a day on the beach, a time when you want to escape into someone else’s life and see that they have it as tough, if not tougher, than you do, but at the same time, their problems aren’t insurmountable.

Not every book has to be lofty, not every book has to tackle the big issues. Sometimes, easy breezy is the way to go, and with that, Griscom delivers in spades. It’s a good escapist couple of hours, and I’m glad I read these.

Huge thanks to Susan Griscom (as opposed to our site owner, Susan) for sharing her books.

This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

When DJ Butler sent me the description of Hellhound on my Trail, the first in a pulpy Rock Fiction series, I sent him back an e-mail with three words: SEND REVIEW COPY.

Start to finish, this was a great read. Suicidal Mike stands in with a band he’s never heard of before. They need a bass player. He’s putting off the inevitable. It’s a good fit.

Except… in the middle of the set, a Hellhound rushes in, setting off a chase that lasts the length of the book. Mike’s suddenly fighting for his life even as he’s haunted by his dead brother. At times, he wonders if he would have been better off if he’d kept to his plan and offed himself, but this ragtag band he’s fallen in with most certainly needs him in order to stay alive, themselves.

What else is there to say? The story’s tight, the writing’s snappy, the creepy stuff is delicious, and there’s a ton of cleverness going on in here, as well. There are dead rabbis, tasers, archangels, weird metal-like fly-things, and a piece of Satan’s hoof. This short book, just over 100 pages, is closer to a novella – and it’s the perfect length. Any longer and it would run the risk of getting tedious. Any shorter, and it wouldn’t be nearly so complete.

No matter what comes next, it’s got quite a predecessor to live up to.

Note from Susan: as you see, DJ was kind enough to send me a review copy. It didn’t affect my thoughts of it. It’s THAT good.

This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.


But where’s the rock and roll? The title of David Kimmel’s book—heck, the first word—is Rockin’. It promises rock and roll. There’s a guitar on the front cover. The description hints at an electric guitar.
So where is it?

According to the expert’s definition of Rock Fiction, a book has to pulse with music to be Rock Fiction. The characters have to live and breathe it, we have to feel it. It doesn’t have to be a stage show or a performance. It doesn’t have to have a rock and roll attitude. Music just has to permeate the pages.

While Gsfex does set across the universe to find planet Irt and discover what he can about the music he’s come to love, he doesn’t do it until there’s been a darn good reason. And he does it more because he knows this is his only chance. He doesn’t carpe anything here. He’s too matter-of-fact.

And Henry. He’s an artist, for crying out loud. And while others have stuck artists and rockers together and pulled off Rock Fiction, there’s not enough passion in Henry’s life. Not for this to be Rock Fiction, anyway. Oh, I get it: the guy’s depressed. He’s got a damn good reason to be, but c’mon, dude. Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and crank whatever you need to until you feel better. Vivaldi. Metallica. Ice Cube. (Just, God no, not Vanilla Ice)

Stepping away from the whole idea of Rock Fiction, this is a fun novella. Henry’s parts get a bit boring ’cause there’s mostly no one there for him to talk to, but we know his life. It’s Gsfex’s we’re more interested in.

There’d better be another book after this short little novella—I even had to check to make sure it hadn’t ended at the wrong spot—that not only fills us in on what happens next, but rocks and rolls, too.

This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

Every now and then, you hear about a book that excites you beyond belief. A book you absolutely MUST read, so much so that you go track down the author so you can get a copy for yourself. Yeah, I know. It happens to me fairly often. What can I say? I’m a book freak. Bibliophile, I believe the word is.

Now, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of horror. Oh, I like the genre, don’t get me wrong. My problem with horror is that I like really well-done, squirm-in-your-seat, psychological horror. The blood and gore? Yawn. But if you promise to mess with my brain and make me afraid of what might be creeping around in the dark, I’m there.

I suppose it makes sense that this horror novel that caught my fancy was written by the one and only Jeremy Wagner, guitarist for metal bands Lupara and Broken Hope. The man rocks harder than I do, and now he’s treading on MY turf: rock and roll fiction.

The Armageddon Chord, his debut novel, is the story of Kirk Vaisto, God of Guitar. Poor Kirk’s a good guy, living a quiet life in a mansion, with a backyard music studio. The set-up reminds me of Jason Newsted and his Chophouse, but not quite as communal. Kirk’s a loner, all right. I’m not sure the poor dude has friends.

Anyway, Kirk gets suckered by his amazingly opportunistic agent into signing a contract with Festus Baustone, a bully who keeps company with some really sick people. Baustone and his buddy want Kirk to play a song for them. It seems simple at first — until Kirk finishes the transcription and plays it for the first time. Then, he’s smart enough to turn tail and run. Or… try to. Remember when I said Baustone was a bully? Yeah. That.

It’s Satan who’s coming to visit via the mystery song. And it’s up to Kirk to not only summon him, but vanquish him as well. Is our man up to the task?

This storyline is so awesome, I’m not sure why it wasn’t an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Really. Joss Whedon is wherever he is in all his brilliance, wondering why he didn’t think of this plotline. It’s that good.

And while I know there are an awful lot of people who dismiss the power of music, Wagner spends some time letting his characters wax more poetic than I ever could on the subject.

One area where I could use a little less waxing is near the end, when religion figures very strongly into the situation. Oh, I get that it’s necessary and I love what the guitar does to the heavy. Plot-wise, it works. It’s just that the characters get a bit too preachy about the glory of Christianity for this good little Jewish girl from the ‘burbs.

I hope Wagner’s got more up his sleeve, with or without Kirk and his love interest, Mona (that’s a provocative name…). He shows some serious author chops in this too-short novel (am I the only one bemoaning the lack of subplots?), although there are some clunkers that show Wagner as a writer who’s still got some growing and polishing to do on the mechanical level. Yet he’s close: on page two, he hits us with a band so evil, they “made Slayer look like Justin Bieber.”

Dude. I hope you know the Slayer guys if you’re going to go around dissing them like that. I’ve met them. They scare me. (Actually, that’s not true. I have met them, but they didn’t scare me. Still, it sounds good, so we’ll go with it.)

Keep writing, Jeremy. You’ve earned this West of Mars Recommended stamp.

I remember watching Josie and the Pussycats when I was a kid. If you’ve never seen it, it was this cartoon about young women with incredible figures who wore ears and tails and leopard-colored clothes. They were a band. And if there was any more to the show, I’ll be darned if I can remember it.

Guess I was always a rock-minded chick.

A month ago, which means in time for Valentine’s Day, Archie Comics has put out a graphic novel that plays with the idea of what if Valerie, the Pussycats’ bassist, and Archie get together.

From the book’s description:

They’ll have to harmonize to deal with rock band drama, reality TV and “real jobs.” But their biggest challenge will also be their most successful collaboration, when their daughter Star lives up to her name and her talented heritage. And of course, all the dreams and drama come laced with the classic comic mayhem we all expect from Archie!

How can you resist??? I sure can’t. None of us should have to. Pick up your copy!